Member feature: Luke Heagerty
It’s half time at the 2015 VFL grand final. Williamstown hold a slender five-point lead but have all the momentum going into the second half.
“I’ve always been a footy lover and had a couple of mates from work who were both Hawthorn supporters, so when Box Hill made the 2015 grand final we said ‘let’s go along’ - good ticket prices and all that. I enjoyed that match obviously and by half time they were starting to feel uncomfortable as Box Hill supporters, so I thought I’d do the only responsible thing,” Club member Luke Heagerty explains the beginning of his Williamstown journey.
His ‘responsible thing’: He went for a walk, found a Williamstown merchandise stand, bought himself a jumper, went back to his mates and sat in between them for the rest of the game to "add some salt into the wounds".
From there it was an 11-goal to two second-half onslaught; The Seagulls recorded their 16th premiership and first since 2003.
Luke has been a member ever since.
“Willi seemed alright as a club and (I) had a bit more of a look into membership following that and just what was on offer to go along and see some games, it’s gone from that to being a really nice way to get to the footy with friends whether they’re particularly interested in footy or not,” he said.
“The atmosphere is really nice, particularly for the home games. And it’s actually turned into a bit of a tradition more so than going to the MCG for some games - anytime there’s a Williamstown-Footscray game, another friend and I go along to that so that’s become our annual tradition.
“I just love how close to the action you are and just how genuine the game is as well, I think it’s different to what you see in the AFL now.”
That famous win at what was then Etihad Stadium wasn’t Luke’s first VFL experience.
“I actually always followed Port Melbourne because that was who Dad followed, for no real reason,” he explained.
“He held a grudge when South Melbourne moved north so followed the Borough instead. That was my only real exposure to VFA/VFL growing up.”
But the CFA worker is now a Seagull and wouldn’t have it any other way. He attends most home games at Downer Oval when able to in what he describes as a major value for money experience given the quality level of footy on display.
One player in particular caught his eye over the years.
“I don’t think there was anything better than seeing Nick Meese in the ruck against some AFL-listed guys and him smashing them for an entire game. I loved that,” the five-year member said.
“It really is great quality of footy and (the VFL) has that traditional feel to it as well. Everyone’s not just dancing around making sure they don’t get injured, there’s a bit more effort put in to the play.
“It’s funny because there’s no real reason why I’d go with Willi as far as going along to that grand final. But I think in terms of a club you want to put your money into, certainly from a home game point of view, it’s a beautiful ground - aside from the days when the rain is horizontal! But it’s a pretty good spot to go and watch a game of footy.”
Williamstown has survived through history by its members and the community sticking together in trying times. In a situation that is currently difficult for everyone, the club is humbled to know it has supporters that will go above and beyond to ensure the club’s long term viability in the state league competition.
The Essendon local was adamant about continuing his membership throughout 2020 despite the seasons being cancelled. He also willingly donated an extra $1,000 to the football club in an incredible gesture the club will forever applaud.
“I think it’s really important to me that when we do come out of this lockdown and look towards next year that we’re still able to look forward to VFL and local footy,” Luke said.
“I think the AFL have obviously demonstrated and been able to move things around to suit their purposes this year, but just the idea of still having somewhere local to go to see teams playing for the love of the game and getting some real genuine satisfaction out of spending time with friends, it’s something that I’m missing at the moment.
“There’s something really special about that local football environment and I just wanted to do a little bit to make sure that when things do start to return to whatever the new normal is, Williamstown Football Club is there as part of the picture.”